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War Medicine Leads to Remarkable Breakthroughs

May 15, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The technology of replacing lost limbs and senses has advanced dramatically because of urgent needs arising from the wars in Southwest Asia. Former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), the inaugural Harold Brown Chair in defense policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, described some of these advances to the audience at Joint Warfighting 2012. He related how one veteran who lost all four of his limbs volunteered for an experimental program to embed a computer chip in the side of his skull. With that chip in place, he was able to control a mechanical limb remotely-the prosthetic arm was in a corresponding laboratory thousands of miles away. After much practice and refining, the arm was flown out to him and attached to his shoulder. After seven limbless years, that veteran finally was able to reach out and touch his wife. Further chip advances are restoring sight to people blinded by ocular degeneration, Gen. Cartwright continued. Experts now are writing software for people to be able to see objects-not just blobs, but detailed items, he reported. Scientists also are learning how chips can eliminate the problem of pain from phantom limbs, and progress in this field is expanding into other areas as well.

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